Monday, March 4

The main European supermarkets demand that the Andalusian Government not pardon illegal irrigation in Doñana

Beware of the reputation of the Doñana brand. That was one of the warnings that numerous voices launched since the PP, Cs and Vox bill was known in January, which, with the abstention of the PSOE, seeks to amnesty more than 1,400 hectares of crops in the Northern Crown of this environment who now take water from the aquifer illegally. After complaints from international organizations, now it is European supermarkets and distributors who are asking the Andalusian president, Juan Manuel Moreno Bonilla (PP), to desist from a measure that will have a significant impact on the image of the region’s products.

In total, there are 23 supermarkets and leading companies in the European fruit sector, including retailers and marketing and fruit processing companies that work with strawberries from Huelva and Doñana. The companies include some of the continent’s largest food retailers such as Aldi, Asda, Edeka, Lidl, migros, Sainsbury’s and Tescowhich at the request of the environmental organization WWF have sent a letter to Moreno Bonilla showing their “concern” about the bill and warning that “the reputation and long-term development of the entire region as an agricultural supply zone may be compromised.”

The letter also makes a very specific request: “We trust that you will desist from the proposed modifications.” And not only that, but they also call for the “full implementation” of the Northern Crown Planalso known as the Strawberry Plan and which is the norm that now wants to be modified to protect the pardon for an irrigated area that WWF raises to 1,900 hectares.

The text has also been sent to the third vice president and minister for the Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge, Teresa Ribera (who also sent a letter to the Andalusian president warning him of the consequences), and the Minister of Agriculture, Luis Planas. In it, what the companies say is that they share the “concern about the consequences that could arise” from the modification of the Strawberry Plan that international organizations such as UNESCO, Ramsar or the European Comission.

The message transmitted by these supply chains is that they are supplied with red fruits from Doñana and all of Huelva, an issue that they connect with the fact that one of their obligations is “to guarantee that the products we sell are produced in a sustainable way”. “In particular,” they stress, “each of us strives to ensure that our suppliers minimize their environmental and social impacts.”

And this, they believe, may be called into question with the modification of a Strawberry Plan, which is “an important tool to guarantee more sustainable crops at the origin of the supply chain.” In fact, they already sent letters similar to the current one in 2014 and 2019 in support of this rule, which is why they now fear that the proposed changes could “endanger the Doñana National Park”.

“Sustainability is a very relevant issue for consumers and companies” they insist, hence they urge to avoid “potential environmental problems” and demand that the “appropriate measures” be adopted to guarantee the correct management of soil and water in Doñana. “If that is not achieved, we believe the reputation and long-term development of the entire region as an agricultural supply zone may be compromised.”

The letter, in short, is a call to apply the Strawberry Plan approved in 2014 as the best way to support agriculture in the region and preserve Doñana. The letter is signed by the following companies: Aldi, Asda, Axfood, Coop, Denner, Edeka, Innocent, Kaufland, Lidl, Migros, Morrisons, Netto, Orkla, Rewe Group, Sainsbury’s, Spar, Svz, Tesco, Valora, Volg, Worldwide Fruit, and Waitrose and Partners.

“European supermarkets are very clear and demand guarantees that the strawberries they sell have been produced legally and without damaging Doñana and respecting the original wording of the Strawberry Plan approved in 2014”, the secretary general of WWF Spain, Juan Carlos del Olmo. “This letter from the main European supermarkets to President Moreno Bonilla asking him to stop pardoning illegal businessmen is a powerful wake-up call that should not be ignored, since it will call into question the image and credibility of Huelva products in Europe in a time when competition with other countries is increasing”.

In fact, WWF considers that this bill is worsening the situation of strawberries from Huelva, “which is currently going through a major crisis due to the transport strike, the drought or the rise in production costs.” “Any setback in environmental standards and objectives, such as the one that is intended to be carried out in Doñana, could be a major setback,” it warns.